Yesterday I discussed work for hire writing, with some reasons writers might want to try it. Now let’s look at some more specific pros and cons, and how to get started.
Isn’t it hard?
You certainly face some specific challenges with WFH, though no more or worse than with other kinds of writing. While the work often allows a lot of creative freedom, ultimately you have to meet a publisher’s strict guidelines. This can include targeting an exact length and reading level, as well as including specific material and writing in a certain tone.
In some cases, you may see your work changed in ways you don’t like. You can use a pen name, but you can’t refuse to make changes. On the other hand, sometimes the work will be published without your name, and in a few situations you may not even be allowed to talk about the projects.
Finally, WFH requires the ability to meet tight deadlines. Writers often have only a few weeks for shorter projects, and a few months for novel-length work. Although this can be intimidating, in the long run it’s an advantage – you’re working for income, and tight deadlines mean you can’t let the project drag out for too long.
All right, how do I start?
Many WFH jobs start with a resume and writing sample. Because individual titles must fit perfectly with the overall series, writers may be asked to write a sample specific to that series, maybe based on an outline. Networking also plays a part. Some editors will look for potential writers at conferences, and I’ve gotten leads from other writers on listservs.
Breaking in can be a challenge. You can send resumes and writing samples to companies that use WFH writers. This is the typical process for educational writing. Be patient – it sometimes takes years to hear back. Once you get in, a good first job can lead to steady work. Some writers do multiple books a year for a single publisher, making tens of thousands of dollars annually.
Several online companies, including Scripted and Elance, help connect writers with clients. They may offer jobs in a variety of topic areas. In the beginning, you may have to bid on lots of jobs and take a very low payment while you build up good ratings. Once you’ve proven yourself, you can raise your rates. Carol North suggests Googling “agencies for contract writers” to find companies that handle business, technical, marketing, and advertising writers.
Work for hire isn't for everyone. Some people may find it easier to hold a full-time job than to run their own business. Some may have enough income from investments, retirement, or a supportive spouse, so that they can focus solely on their own fiction. A few may find it more lucrative to simply do fiction, so any WFH is merely a distraction. However, for many of us, work for hire can help pay the bills while allowing enough time for our own projects, as we wait to get rich and famous on fiction alone.
Honestly, there’s nothing to be afraid of.
- Get published/build a writing resume
- Earn steady money
- Money can come in faster because deadlines are so short
- Hone your writing skills by working with editors
- Get to know editors who may also be looking for original work
- Learn about a variety of topics
- Short deadlines require discipline and fast writing
- You may need to be good at research
- You rarely control the content
- You typically don’t earn royalties
- You have less time for your own trade writing
I hope work for hire doesn't seem quite so scary anymore. Have you tried it? Would you consider it? Why or why not? Feel free to post questions in the comments.